Radioactive contamination of reindeer and environment

Last changed: 05 October 2020
Grazing reindeer

Radioactive contamination has affected reindeer and reindeer husbandry in large parts of Sweden since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Despite the fact that the levels of radioactive cesium now have declined to less than a tenth of the original, reindeer in parts of southern Västerbotten and northern Jämtland are still affected.

Reindeer are regularly controlled with regards to radioactive cesium in some areas. Countermeasures, as adapted slaughter time and feeding with non-contaminated feed, are however effective and very few reindeer are above the current limit for marketing (1500 Bq per kg of meat) at slaughter.

I have conducted research on the transfer of radioactive cesium from the environment to reindeer (and further to eg. lynx) since 1986. This research has shown to what extent radioactive cesium is transferred and absorbed in the body to the reindeer, and how feeding and addition of different cesium-binding substances affect the absorption. Results of the research form the basis for the control and the countermeasures that are presently used in Sweden.

Research within this area resulted in a doctoral thesis 1994 (Åhman B, Radiocaesium in reindeer after fallout from the Chernobyl accident), and in several publications after this. I have an assignment from the Sami Parliament in Sweden to follow the development regarding radiocaesium in reindeer and supervise reindeer husbandry and authorities concerned in matters concerning radioactive contamination of reindeer.

Selected publications:

Research articles

Åhman, B. (2007). "Modelling radiocaesium transfer and long-term changes in reindeer." Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 98: 153-165.

Åhman, B., S. M. Wright and B. J. Howard (2004). "Radiocaesium in lynx in relation to ground deposition and diet." Radiation and Environmental Biophysics 43(2): 119-126.


Skuterud, Åhman, Solatie & Gaare (2009). Long-term decline of radiocaesium in Fennoscandian reindeer

Åhman, B. (2005) ”Utveckling, övervakning och åtgärder när det gäller radioaktivt cesium i renar efter Tjernobylolyckan” SSI Rapport 2005:17